Dave Griffin on Running - The Carroll County Times – Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dave Griffin on Running - The Carroll County Times – Sunday, May 27, 2012

Those of us who yearn for success usually have some idea of where our life is headed.  Brian Boyle certainly did.

In 2004, he graduated from high school with academic honors.  He excelled at swimming and track and field.  He left school with a stellar reputation and three solid goals – to attend college, to swim for the team and, someday, to complete an ironman triathlon. 

In the early weeks of that summer, Brian was already preparing to swim for St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  On July 6th he had completed a track workout followed by a hard swim, and he was driving home to lift weights. 

Life doesn’t always respect the plans we’ve made.  You might say, at times, it disregards them entirely.

Brian doesn’t know anything about the driver of the dump truck.  He might have been distracted or sleepy; all he really knows is that the truck didn’t slow down before it rammed into his black Camaro. 

His pelvis was crushed into a five inch space, pushing his lower organs upward like air in a squeezed balloon.  The horizontal impact forced his upper organs across his chest, every single one damaged.  In the moments that followed he lost sixty percent of his blood and everyone who saw him lost all hope.

But the ordeal wouldn’t end.  He had 19 surgeries, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments, pneumonia, infections and high fevers.  After two months, still in a coma and on life support, his helpless body lay dying, but his extraordinary spirit fought to live.

Even when Brian began to show signs of life, no one thought it would be a life worth living.  But over the course of a year he proved the naysayers wrong each time, as he began to talk, and then to walk, and, finally, to run and swim.

Two years delayed, he went to St. Mary’s college and swam for the team.  Then, just days before the third anniversary of the accident, he sent an email to the director of the Hawaiian Ironman.  The reply surprised him.

He was invited to take part in the October 2007 race under two conditions: his doctors had to authorize it, and he needed to finish a half-ironman to prove he was capable.  By the time he cleared the first hurdle, he had only two weeks to prepare for the second.  Remarkably, he did it, then leaving just six weeks to train for the full triathlon.

On October 13, 2007, Brian swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 and ran another 26.2 to become an ironman, or maybe he already was one.  He refers to the day simply as the best day of his life.

Brian Boyle is proof that the human spirit is indestructible, which leads me to the most important point; our limitations are seldom physical.  When Brian’s mind had doubts, it was his spirit that overcame them.  When his body hurt, his spirit endured.

Everything can die: people, dreams, ambition.  But with a strong spirit, everything can also live.

Brian Boyle is a spokesman for the American Red Cross.  To learn more about his story, read his book “Iron Heart.”

Dave Griffin is the Times’ running writer and coordinator of the Flying Feet Running Programs.  His column appears every other Sunday.